Newspaper articles – The Fremantle Herald – 22nd May 1886

The Fremantle Herald


It is with anything but pleasure that we again refer to the Roebourne murder, but the remarks of our morning contemporary, who seems determined to keep the subject before the public, force us to reply.

We are told in a sneering way that the murder was an incident in a bungling attempt at a robbery, and in answer to our observation that by this time there was little doubt that the authors of the crime had cleared out of the district we are informed that the persons who have cleared out might be counted on ten fingers.

Now, as regards the object with which the crime was committed, we appeal to the common sense of our readers whether men whose object was robbery would have proceeded in the way followed by the murderers? Mr. Anketell, let it be remembered; was for a day or two before the robbery absent from home – gone up the country on business. If therefore the object was robbery, now was the time for committing it. Clearly, it would be easier to deal with Mr. Burrup alone than with that gentle man and Mr. Anketell. It must be remembered that the burglars, if burglars they were, could not have counted on finding these two gentlemen fast asleep. The probability was that they would meet with resistance and that, even if they came upon one unprepared, there would be so much of a struggle and such cries for help that, while the one was being dealt with, the other would be roused and come rcvolver in hand to the assistance of his friend. It would therefore have been an act of madness to wait for the return of Mr. Anketell. If the object had been plunder,   the attempt would have been made while Mr. Anketell was away. But what is conclusive as to the object of the murderers is that no robbery of the ordinary kind was committed. It may be all very well to say that the men were disturbed. But the evidence went to shew that they were not disturbed. Not a witness was produced who was near the spot between the time when the murder must have been committed and the time when them murder was discovered.

It may be said that men who are engaged in a robbery are some times frightened away by a false alarm. But the evidence, or rather the want of evidence on this point, goes to show that there was nothing to excite alarm. Moreover, the men who planned and perpetrated that murder were not men to fly from their own shadow. It was the act of determined, cool, strong-minded men who, having set their minds on a thing were determined to have what they sought at all risks. They who committed a double murder resolutely and fiercely with the purpose of robbing the bank would at least have tried what they could do with the bank keys, even if they had been unsuccessful. But, though the place was covered with blood, there were no  marks of blood on the safe, nor were the keys in Mr. Burrup’s waistcoat touched, while as, if to repudiate the idea of all intention to commit a robbery, Mr. Anketell’s keys were left upon his breast. Lastly, not a trinket or a coin, so far as the evidence went, was taken either from the bank or from the persons of the murdered men. We say therefore the contention that the murder was committed for the purpose of facilitating a robbery is utterly untenable.

The circumstances speak for themselves. Mr. Anketell who had been in the country was either followed or waited on by some persons, the leader whom had either some bitter hate against him, or desired to obtain some document which he knew to be on his person, and who, when they saw that the poor gentleman’s friend or friends had left him for the night, determined at all hazards to murder him.

As to who were engaged in the perpetration of the crime, it may be that no one has the slightest idea. It is easy to say it could only be one of such and such persons, but who can, know anything about it? The history of crime tells us that persons have committed murders who, as it seemed at the time, could not possibly have done so, while those on whom suspicion fastened were perfectly innocent.

The history of crime makes it equally clear that the murder was not committed for the purposes of a common robbery. The robbery of a bank would never be attempted except by professional burglars, and such persons never committed murder except in self defence and to escape capture, nor do they attempt a robbery of a safe without having first provided them selves with the knowledge and means required for opening it. Had professional burglars set themselves to work, they would have made sure of success if it had taken then months of preparation – nor, though they might, have stupified Mr. Anketell – would they ever had murdered him, nor if they had wanted to find Mr. Burrup asleep would they have smashed a pane of glass which they could have easily removed without a sound.

Thus, while everything points to the object of the crime being something very different from an ordinary robbery, it is equally clear that it is mortally impossible that a burglar could have been implicated.

For our parts we regard all chance of the mystery being cleared up as past, and had hoped that there would be no revival of the subject when the only result of such revival must be to raise baseless suspicions against innocent persons. But, if the people at Roebourne and a portion of the press are bent at once on stirring the mud and throwing it at others, it is impossible for us to remain silent.